THE CRUSADERS by Stefan Heym
Kirkus Star


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This is sure to rank as one of the top novels of the war, (and that without aid of pornographic minutiae, which is, nowadays, quite an achievement!) There's nothing sissy about it. Stefan Heym has simply proved that -- while sex is important and not to be by-passed in a story of men, and women, at the front, there are other dominant motives, and not always worthy ones. While ""the crusaders"" form a tiny segment among those to whom the role of leadership falls, the survival of idealism, of a flame of justice and belief in democracy, of a burning desire to see wrongs righted proves a ruling factor which drives these few (De Witt, Yates, Troy and Bing, whose life is forfeit). All of these men are drawn in bold, vigorous strokes, their weaknesses along with their strengths. But equally vivid are the men dominated by greed and ambition and a determination to feather their civilian nests in the post-war world, the men whose stories leak out now and again in the press in dramatic exposes of black marketeering, dealing with cartels, bolstering the German latent strength. There's Dondolo, sadist, exulting in cruelty, even when it costs the unstable Thorpe his sanity. There's Loomis, small bit politican on the make. There's Willoughby, suave and plausible, making sure of his security and buttering up to top brass. And there's the General- Farrish- easily recognized, and caring only to keep his well-earned reputation for ruthless warfare untarnished. A tremendous canvas- unforgettable scenes of battle and carnage- of the sweep across France- the frontier problems of a hastily conquered territory, with plans in a vacuum; there's the Battle of the Bulge; there are appallingly raw conflicts within conflicts as decisions, too often wrong ones, cost lives of fellow men. There are flashes of German scenes. Not always an easy book to read -- the scenes and characters shift so fast --but a book that demands reading, close reading, for the revealing picture of men's souls under the stress of war. The little men are as important to the veracity of the whole as are the top characters. The women, even including Karen, who is more a catalytic agent than a participating figure, are not quite so authentic. But the whole leaves an overwhelming -- and, for many readers I feel sure, a depressing sense of ""This is war"". Don't miss it. In my opinion, here is a book that will live!

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1948
Publisher: Little, Brown